We and our bare essentials.

This morning, I read an amusing article on how squeamish our society is about women’s undergarments and the etceteras. Etceteras, as in all the  things related to women. I mean, those you-know-whats, and those other you-know-whats, as well!  And, it reminded me of all those times when this squeamishness was highly palpable, even to the teenaged me, who wondered what the fuss was all about!

I remember how, as a big girl, I had to hide my stuff from the world. The undergarments, the sanitary napkins, all of it had to be shoved to the back of my shelf in the cupboard, lest it presented its ugly self to the world and polluted the serenity around.  Do you remember, how in the olden days a Brahmin would get ‘polluted’ if touched by a person from the lower caste? Yes, just like that. Our lady-items have the potential to contaminate the virtuous world around us.

If a bra or a panty happens to be lying around in our room, then… “Why is that thing of yours lying around like that? CLEAR UP QUICK! And, please put those to dry in the corner on the clothes line. We don’t want those to flutter like flags and attract everyone’s attention, do we?”  No fingers get wagged, though,  if the male members of our family leave their undies lying all over the place!  It’s still not  accepted that we women have been blessed with a body, and that we cover ourselves well, so yes, we, too, wear undergarments, that’s all!

A firebrand colleague once reprimanded her husband and her son for strewing their undies all over the house. If she found their clothes lying around everywhere, she threatened, she would leave her inner wear lying all over, too! It had the necessary effect on her menfolk. They only had to visualise her bras and panties scattered around the house and guests dropping in unannounced! Serves them right.

I remember, as young girls, whenever our bra-strap peeped from under our outfits, our girlfriends would quickly push it back  in, saying, “hey, your boyfriend/mother-in-law is peeping!” Hilarious, I know! But, I never see men doing that. They roam about in their vests and their boxer shorts all the time. Heaven forbid if a woman was to move about in her house dressed in a vest and a pair of shorts. “Chhi chhi! Have you no shame, at all? Go, cover up!” we hear.  Even during the scorching months of summer we have to be dressed in layers of clothing, while the men, they can gallivant round town in anything they please!

Sanitary napkins and their mention has a weird effect on the salesmen at the chemist. The guy at my neighbourhood chemist acts as if I were asking for my monthly drugs supply! Drugs, as in marijuana, et al.  I enter the shop, the guy comes over and enquires what it is that I need. And, the moment I mention the name of a sanitary napkin, he lowers his tone to almost a whisper. “Yes, ma’am, which one do you need? The green packet of the ABC company, or the blue packet of the XYZ  company?”  he asks,  surreptitiously.  And, no sooner do I point out to the one I need than he hurries to  pick it up from the showcase, wrap it in a newspaper, secure it with a string and then drop  it in a black polythene bag. BLACK, mind you, not the transparent one which he uses to pack medicines in.

Ditto for the salesmen at the undergarments counter. Albeit, these guys are at the other end of the spectrum. There’s no embarrassment on their faces, but the transactions do take place in hushed tones.  I find it  tremendously embarrassing asking for lingerie at a store which hasn’t appointed a woman at these counters. The men – they unabashedly  size us up and bring out the stuff even  before we open our mouth to mention our requirement! Don’t they, ladies?   I do get riled by their crass behaviour, but at times, I wish the men in our homes would also treat these items of clothing as just that – items of clothing. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to be ashamed of.

So, what IS it about our lingerie and our period-stuff that is so repellant? Why can’t it be accepted that half the world’s population has been blessed with body parts slightly differing in proportions and appearance, and that those need to be covered, and that’s why those undergarments? Those are just garments, for heaven’s sake! Or, shouldn’t we be wearing any? Will THAT put them at ease? Tee-hee!

 When I ponder over it all, it gives me a feeling that women, as a ‘species’, are an embarrassment to the society, and that embarrassment is what gets attached to everything related to women. And, thus all the fuss about everything women.

Sigh.

I could rant on about this vexation, but I guess I have to curtail the urge to go overboard. So, I will stop here, for now.
Maybe you could share with me experiences that left you fuming at the silliness of people’s behaviour towards the, you know, lady-items. We could have a few laughs, maybe, for it’s really pointless vexing over things you can’t change, ever. And, laughter is always the best medicine, so, let’s share a few laughs and have a good time poking fun at society and its pea-sized brain.

What say you?

Love,

SHILPA…

24 Replies to “We and our bare essentials.”

  1. I too think about these things a lot. Once my manager asked me where I was going when he knew I was going towards the washroom & he asked me what's in my hand. I got so irked that I showed him my pad & told him I'm going to change. He almost ran away as if I was holding a grenade 🤔

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  2. Hm, our etceteras…. oh well. I think times has changed though- that it's more natural to talk about these days, than when I grew up… Or, I'd like to think so – it's so natural after all. Well-written piece:-)

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  3. A hilarious take on a relevant topic. I bless the sprucing up of departmental stores which made the buying of sanitary napkins hassle free. No more whispers, only staying free. However, I cannot bring myself to visit undergarments stores where there are no women attendants. Actually I do not go to such stores at all. I buy online like everything else. I liked the threat your friend issued in her house 😀

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  4. Hi Shilpa! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post. I can relate to every single point you've mentioned. And the one: girlfriends tucking in my bra strap is such a flashback moment for me. Well it still happens when my mother is around. I also agree with the extremity we see in men, from medical shop to lingerie stores. Wonderfully curated and I heart use of your vocab. Great going girl!!

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  5. Till college I used to buy my undergarments from a store with a male salesperson. It was embarrassing but I have to say he was knowledgeable. In fact he introduced me to low waist undies that don't peep out when you wear jeans. 😛 Yeah, men and women, all become squeamish with the bare sight of women's undergarments and yet, millions is spent on lingerie each year. Our world is one strange place.

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  6. I remember the embarrassment of having my period and worrying others would know. Heaven forbid if I needed to buy some and there was a guy at the cash. Back then we had those awful belts and pads which were so uncomfortable. UGH! Getting a bra was embarrassing, too. I would cross my arms a lot.

    Hopefully we're better and more open about such things these days but I doubt it.

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  7. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one, Shilpa! I so much needed that laughter!

    There was a time, when used to be a shy girl who used to ask for sanitary napkins and undies and bras, as if it was my fault if I was using them. But not anymore! One shameless brat I've become. I clearly ask for it, with questions regarding brands and pointing which one is good or not, or if I need a specific brand which is not available, I order it as well. Talk about lingerie… I don't shy away from that as well. I feel, when men sell women's items without any shame, then why do we women have to shy away from buying stuff that is totally ours?!

    Want to know more? But this is not a ladies item! I once bought a condom as well 😀 .. You know the level of my audacity now, right? I gulped down the shame and asked for it… and man.. I still can't forget the reaction of the salesman!! It was hilarious!

    Cheers
    Geets

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  8. It is natural, Eli, and easier to talk about, but only in certain spaces. Most of the men still shy away from all things women! My sis-in-law's hubby is too coy to buy a packet of sanitary napkins for her! 😛

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  9. Hey Tara!
    Thank you so much for your sweet words!
    Yes, men and their weird behaviour around women-stuff is vexing, for sure. Wonder why they don't accept it that we are first and foremost living, breathing beings with varied necessities just the way they do!
    People are never going to change, I tell you!
    Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

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  10. I can totally understand what you mean, Cat. The way these men stare, with that sweeping look as if visualising ….ugh…I don't even want to think about it. It's really high time they became a bit sensitive..right?

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  11. Hahaha….Geetika, you are my hero! You actually did THAT? Bravo, my girl! May your tribe increase!
    True, if men can sell stuff meant for women, why do we need to feel shy buying it? Let them imagine or think anything they want, we will be as shameless as they can be, right?
    Thank you for your fantabulous comment, Geet! I know I needed it! 🙂 ❤

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  12. This vexed me much. From being asked to hide washed UGs in the corner to being noticed about peeped out Bra, I have experienced all. If these things are really odd, do them for Boys too. Why their UGs are washed along with other clothes. Aren't they dirty? Huh- Our sick mentality.

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  13. This was quite an entertaining post, Shilpa!But jokes apart, this rigid mindset of the society towards a woman's intimate items is purely chauvinist. I completely agree on your take that if it's intimate and so personal why aren't the same rules applied to men. In my school days I had a classmate who was tomboyish. She refused to wax her legs considering it to be a girly whim and would walk around with hairy legs. While it was okay for the boys to sport hairy legs in shorts, she would forever be nagged and ridiculed by teachers and students for it. She however stuck to her guns and took it all in her stride. There are so many such instances where women are targeted and men go scot-free.

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  14. Wow! You know, that must have required guts, Vinodini! But, there are some women who have all the nerves to take things in their stride! We all need to develop such a mindset and men need to change theirs!
    Thank you for stopping by, Vinodini! 🙂

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  15. Hey Shilpa! What a wonderful post! You said it all. This is how we all grew up hiding stuff, feeling embarrassed about thngs that's as natural as being human. It's the social stigma that's attached with women and all things women even today in most parts of our country. We women have gone bolder living in metros and care a damn though but hope that changes fr the rest of the women too.

    Enjoyed reading every bit of it. A mix of humour and yet thought provoking. Keep up with great writing😊

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  16. True, Manjusha…The stigma attached to women and all things women needs to be wiped off by our society – something that will give rise to the sense of equality among the sexes. But, after all the years of conditioning, I wonder if it will happen any time soon!
    Thank you for visiting my blog, my dear!
    Love n hugs!

    Like

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